Step Forward Day, an annual tradition at MU, brought together over 300 students Saturday to dedicate their morning to giving back to the Columbia community.
Students met at Tiger Plaza for a registration and a complimentary breakfast as early as 8 a.m. and were then bused to several local organizations to volunteer.
Since Step Forward Day is centered on incoming freshmen and transfer students, many see this as a chance to get to know each other before fall classes begin.
Organizer Alyssa Bilyeu, graduate assistant for Leadership and Services, said Step Forward Day was started to benefit the surrounding community and to help expose new students to the many volunteer opportunities around Columbia, while helping students meet others with similar interests.
"I think the relationships is probably the number one thing students take from this event because they meet all these new people even from just the second they walk into Tiger Plaza all the way until they leave," Bilyeu said. "Then they gain just absolute, concrete community service experience."
Overall, 14 organizations benefited from the event. Some agencies included Columbia Second Chance, The Center Project, Habitat for Humanity, The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, and the Mary Lee Johnston Community Learning Center.
Bilyeu, who said she also does her best to help serve the community, said that although the difficulty of service projects can vary, she believes the students all got very hands-on experiences.
"These projects we're doing are actually pretty intense projects, like anywhere from lifting super heavy things or scrubbing a dog to working with children," she said.
Not only does the one-day event help give community agencies with the extra service they need, it can also have an impact on the students who participate.
Freshman Dustin Bacon, who volunteered with a group of 21 other students for the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, said he spent his morning pulling weeds, patching chicken coops, painting and working with compost.
"I think Step Forward Day is a really good idea, especially for incoming freshmen and transfer students, because not only does it inform students about all the values that MU has, but it enforces it with all of the leadership programs they have available," Bacon said.
Bacon said he would definitely recommend the event to future students.
"There seemed to be a lot of really like-minded people there," he said. "Whether that be people who are looking to serve the community or who just have good values, it's a good environment to be in to meet people that you would actually want to spend a lot of time with."
Freshman Karlee Renkoski volunteered for the food bank, sorting and bagging potatoes with nearly 100 other students.
She said she was impressed by how well students came together in order to help out.
"I just saw how even though we were all different people and we didn't know each other really, we worked really well together," Renkoski said. "We were all total strangers, but we all worked together and no one really complained."